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Grants would improve casino area

The funding is in place.

The partners are lined up.

The next step is to proceed on some neighborhood beautification projects in areas around the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

Monday, the newly formed Seneca Buffalo Creek Development Advisory Board outlined the application process for $1 million in grants for neighborhood improvements near the downtown casino, located on Michigan Avenue near Perry Street.

The money is designed to be a resource for casino neighbors, nearby developers, residents and businesses to boost infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and signs.

"If we do this as a community, there is a greater success for all," said Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter during the announcement ceremony in the Valley Community Center on Leddy Street.

Seneca Gaming Corp. has provided the $1 million for the community development grants. Awards will range from $10,000 to $100,000.

The casino is located on 9 1/2 acres of sovereign territory on Michigan Avenue and within a half-mile of the Erie Canal Harbor Development's redevelopment of the waterfront. It is close to the Old First Ward neighborhood, the Cobblestone District and the Buffalo River. It borders the Perry Choice Neighborhood, where a major redevelopment effort is under way.

The Seneca Gaming grants must affect an area of the waterfront as identified by the advisory board and will be evaluated for geographic, design and collaborative merit. The advisory board will review the applications for competency and relevancy.

A scoring template will be used to evaluate each application. A two-tier selection process will allow for quantitative and qualitative assessments.

If the application meets all eligibility requirements and scores a certain amount of points, the applicant will be asked to present a proposal to the advisory board. After each presentation, the board will discuss the merits of the proposal and decide whether to recommend funding the project.

The aim is to use the money in a manner consistent with existing community plans. Municipalities will not be eligible, and any board members applying will recuse themselves from the evaluation process.

Applications will be accepted through March 31.

The advisory board consists of representatives from the Seneca Nation Council; the Erie County Industrial Development Agency; the South Buffalo Chamber of Commerce; the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority; the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority; the Erie Canal Waterfront Development Corp.; Empire State Development; Valley Community Center; HSBC Bank; the Old First Ward Community Association; Seneca Holdings; Seneca Gaming Corp.; and private business owners.

Interested applicants can contact Cathy Leggett of the Seneca Gaming Corp. at 501-2494 or by email at cleggett@senecacasinos.com. Applications are also available at www.senecagamingcorporation.com.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com